Henry's Dream

When I compare this approach to the formula behind many of Bob Dylan's best songs, Henry agrees: "I was kind of avoiding that reference, but that's exactly what it is. 'I Want You' -- those verses are like a snakepit. That whole record, Blonde on Blonde, is all about this pop formula that he's subverting from the inside out. 'Just Like a Woman' is a really strange song, but it goes by so easy because it's so familiar -- 3/4 time is as ancient as anything, and there's this beautiful pop chorus. There's almost nothing he couldn't have said in the verse with a chorus like that. Anyone could grab it as it goes by."

Henry is frequently compared to Bob Dylan, someone he admires but doesn't slavishly emulate. "First of all, I always think it's limiting as a songwriter to only talk about other songwriters in terms of influence. In that regard, even as a musician, I've probably been more influenced by my parents than I have by Bob Dylan. The person I've become and the way that I hear things and see things and choose to execute them has as much to do with my personality as it has to do with my musical taste. It's not just a matter of picking out what kind of records I have in my collection, which is disturbingly still what most journalists want to talk about, like if they can figure out what you've been listening to, they're allowed to move on and go interview somebody else."

Indeed, Henry is more likely to mention nonmusical sources of inspiration: film directors such as Fellini, Herzog and Bunuel or writers like Carver and Burroughs. The darkly gorgeous "Want Too Much" evokes the paintings of Marc Chagall with its off-kilter dream logic and imagist verses: "In dreams I fly above the barn/With goats and violins, I want too much." Another song on the album, the instrumental "Curt Flood," pays homage to the former St. Louis Cardinal who, after being traded without his consent, took his case to the Supreme Court. Although Flood lost, his efforts helped launch the free-agent system that exists today. After seeing a Spike Lee documentary on the legendary outfielder, Henry set out to write a song about him. "I tried to write it about him, but I didn't want to make it like a Woody Guthrie song, you know, 'The Ballad of Curt Flood.' It just never worked. It came to me all at once that the beautiful thing about an instrumental is that you can call it anything. I thought it was kind of bold, I thought it was groovy and I thought it was elegant in a certain way. And I thought it was really tough in a certain way. It just made sense to me: That's my song about Curt Flood."

Bold, groovy, elegant and tough: These adjectives could also describe the record as a whole. Henry believes Fuse succeeds in areas where his previous albums fell short. "I feel like such a baby," he exclaims. "I'm so naive. I'm just learning how to make a record like you can really make a record. But you live and learn, and you just hope you live long enough to get good at something.

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